For the past 11 years, the homeschoolers’ Science Olympiad and Speech and Debate teams have been powerful competitors in the state. This year, however, in the middle of the season, the New Mexico Activities Association (NMAA) robbed them of their chance to compete by enacting a rule which stated that homeschooled students can only compete if they join a public school team. This basically prevents homeschoolers from actively pursuing activities that they enjoy. The Science Olympiad students appealed to the NMAA executive director and ultimately were granted permission to compete this year, but their eligibility for future years is uncertain. As an organization that supervises “interscholastic activities in the State of New Mexico” and aims at “promoting equitable participation and character development” (NMAA official website), NMAA must treat all students — including homeschoolers — fairly. However, their actions regarding the 11-year-old rule which they enacted just this school year failed at demonstrating their mission, since the ruling prevented equal participation of homeschoolers and decreased the competition and education in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math). As a matter of integrity, NMAA must appeal the rule and allow homeschoolers to compete in future years.

Several problems — implementing the rule in the middle of the school year and trumping the national Science Olympiad rules which allows homeschoolers’ participation — reveal that the NMAA did not adequately consider the negative implications of the ruling. In terms of the timing of the enactment, the Science Olympiad team was in the midst of practicing, had already paid the team dues, and had purchased parts for the projects. The Speech and Debate team had also already paid dues and was practicing and participating in tournaments. Then they were suddenly told that they couldn’t compete, resulting in loss of money, time, and effort. A decision like this should not be implemented in the middle of the season, but rather well before the season, before the team starts practicing, in order to prevent financial and time losses. The fact that this rule overlooks the national Science Olympiad rules hinders and disrespects the homeschoolers’ participation. Homeschool teams promote healthy competition and increase opportunities for STEM education in the state. Impeding their engagement only proves that NMAA failed to acknowledge the roles of homeschoolers in state competitions.

The NMAA’s denies having excluded students from participating in these activities, thereby revealing that they didn’t care much about the enactment from the homeschoolers’ perspective. They stated that they didn’t allow them to participate in the homeschoolers’ teams, but instead offered them the opportunities to compete as long as they joined a public school team. However, only a handful of participants live in a district where the public school even has a team, or if they do, the teams were already filled since it was so late in the season.

Moreover, their arguments regarding the homeschool teams trying to get some sort of special privilege have no basis. All of the participants’ parents are taxpayers, paying the same amount of money for their children to compete on a homeschool team as the public school kids’ parents are to compete on their public school team. The NMAA’s unfair treatments towards homeschoolers fails to acknowledge homeschoolers as equal participants who pay taxes and team dues like everyone else.

Although they can compete this year, the future remains uncertain for these teams. All of the issues highlighted above will still be a problem next year. The participants on these teams should have just as many options open to them as others, and they should not be denied because of their choice to not attend a public school. In order to fully carry out what they claim to do — promote equitable participation among students in NM — students must appeal the ruling in order to prevent any more issues in the coming years.

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